5 Reasons Why Eating Less is a Flawed Weight Loss Strategy
“Eat less, exercise more”
That’s the message delivered daily to anyone who wants to lose weight.
Unfortunately it’s not that simple, as anyone who has ever tried to lose weight will testify to.
In this post I will give 5 reasons why this is a flawed strategy to losing weight and give you action steps to fix each one.
#1 Not all calories are equal
Most of us try to cut back the amount that we eat to lose weight.
However, eating less ignores what we are eating.
1,000 calories of sugar could be eaten in 1 chocolate bar and we’d be hungry straight away again or soon after.
1,000 calories from vegetables could keep us feeling full all day.
That’s an extreme example, but it’s clear to see that the vegetable way is more filling, more sustainable and better for our body.
Truth be told, you can eat a huge amount of fresh, unprocessed foods and still lose weight.
Try surviving on a diet of highly processed, sugar and chemical filled foods and see how long you last, no matter what your calories in vs calories out are.
Pro Tip: Instead of trying to cut back on everything, look at what you are eating and think about how good for you it is.
When you start to remove highly processed, nutrient poor foods like sweets, chocolate, packaged meals, etc you will be amazed how better you feel and how much less worried you need to be about restricting your food choices
Track everything you eat and drink for a week
Or you can take photos of everything instead
Look at those foods and drinks and see where you think you can improve the most
The key is to reduce processed, low quality food
#2 We need energy to survive
Sometimes we can go to extremes to achieve the look we want. Such as when we restrict calorie intake to the point where it damages our metabolism.
Metabolism is defined as:
“the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.”
In short, it’s really important that we keep this working properly!
Our bodies need a certain amount of energy just to work properly, for processes like digestion, repairing body tissues, keeping the heart pumping and the brain working, etc.
All of these processes require energy and that base amount of energy is called the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
“Your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is an estimate of how many calories you’d burn if you were to do nothing but rest for 24 hours.” – My Fitness Pal
This value will vary from person to person. You can get a rough guide from this BMR calculator.
If you restrict your calories to a lower amount than this, it can severely impact how your body functions and how your metabolism works.
Imagine running a car without the required oil, water and fuel. It would cease up and conk out very quickly.
The same is true for our bodies.
Some say that when we restrict energy intake to lower than our BMR over the long term it can do permanent damage to our metabolism and our body.
Track your food and drink choices for 1 week in My Fitness Pal
Compare the values against your BMR value
Remember point #1 about not all calories being equal
Pick one area to improve and make 1 change each week
#3 Quality vs quantity
It’s common for us to count calories to try and lose weight. To some extent it definitely makes sense.
A calorie is a way to measure how much energy we are getting. If we use more energy than we take in, we will use fat stores for energy and lose weight.
Unfortunately this is an over-simplified approach. Here’s why.
The body needs a wide range of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbohydrates to work properly and efficiently.
If we are only feeding it low quality foods which do not have any of the required nutrients, our body will not work properly.
Imagine throwing wet wood onto a fire. The wet wood is not what the fire needs, so it won’t burn properly. The same is true for your metabolism.
The key point is this: Feed your body a wide range of fresh, unprocessed foods to keep it running smoothly and burning energy fast and effectively.
This point is very closely related to point 1, but it’s so important it’s worth highlighting it again.
Just reducing the amount you eat does not guarantee weight loss or that your body is getting the required nutrients to work properly.
If you want to burn fat faster, stick to quality ingredients
Forget about the chemical filled slimming shakes and stick to real, fresh food
#4 Your genetic make-up
Some people can eat nuts and be fine while others have an allergic reaction and may die from eating one.
My point is that what works for one person might not work for another. Our unique genetic make-up will determine what works for best for us.
Another example is that some people can eat a lot of carbs and be fine while others have a piece of toast and will balloon.
So an eating plan which works well for your friend might not work well for you.
Key message: You are unique and you have to find out what works and what doesn’t for you.
When you start to build up knowledge of what works for you and what doesn’t, you will be able to make improved choices about which foods to have and which ones to avoid.
Test out different foods and develop an understanding of what works for you
The biggest takeaway is that what works for others might not work for you and that’s normal, so don’t worry that there is something wrong with you
The key point is still to avoid processed foods and stick to whole, fresh ones
#5 Lifestyle factors
Stress and sleep are two of the biggest factors which will impact our weight loss which are often not spoken about in much detail.
Sleep is the time when your body has time to repair itself. If your sleep is interrupted or too short, your body will not be able to complete the necessary work.
Ideally we should be getting at least 7 hours a night and preferably 8.
Sleep is also affected by Stress…
Historically speaking, a stress would be a threat like a wild animal about to attack or a fight with another clan.
And although our situation is very different now, our bodies respond in the same way.
When we’re stressed our bodies stop properly functioning and use all resources to cope with the pending attack.
After all, we need to deal with the stress as a priority over everything else. There’s no point in digesting and absorbing food if we don’t survive the attack…
That’s fine when it’s a quick stress and then finishes. But stresses don’t have to be those really bad moments.
Daily stresses around money worries, work pressure or relationship issues all build up in the background.
And our body responds in the same way to those as it does to an attacker.
The cumulative effect of those stresses can be just as damaging as a major stress. It’s just not as obvious or as quick.
Stress will interfere with every aspect of our body, from skin complaints to not absorbing the foods we eat.
If our bodies aren’t absorbing the nutrients it needs, it will not work properly. And if it’s not working properly, you won’t burn energy in the same way.
Common small but consistent stresses that a lot of people deal with include:
- The daily commute to work and back can be very stressful and affect you all day
- You can spend up to 10 hours a day with work colleagues so issues are common
- Problems with money, like mounting debt and credit cards
- Family concerns such as problems between family members or health related issues
Have a think if there are any nagging stresses in your life
See if there ways that you can reduce those stresses
If there is anything that is worrying you, try speaking to someone about it
If you get less than 7 hours sleep, what is stopping you sleeping more?
Think if there are any ways to improve the quality of your sleep
Hopefully that gives you a little insight into the whole “eat less, exercise more” debate from my point of view.
There is rarely a simple answer to a complex problem. If there were, it would no longer be a problem.
If you believe that your food and exercise choices are an area where you would like to improve, drop me a message and I’d be happy to have a free, no obligation chat to see if there are ways that I can help you improve them.